Iran–Turkey relations

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Iran–Turkey relations
Map indicating locations of Turkey and Iran



The relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey have always been peaceful since the establishment of the modern states. Iran and Turkey are major trade partners. Turkey and Iran have heavy mutual influence on each other, due to geographical proximity, linguistic and ethnic relations (e.g. Azerbaijanis, an Turkic people who speak a Turkic language, are the second largest ethnicity in Iran and Kurds, an Iranic people, are the second largest ethnicity in Turkey) many common cultural aspects, shared empires, and conquering by such as the Parthians, Achaemenids, Sassanians, Seljuks, Safavids, Afsharids, Ottomans and Qajars. Turkey has an embassy in Tehran, and consulates in Tabriz and Urmia. Iran has its embassy in Ankara, and consulates in Istanbul, Erzurum, and Trabzon.

Both support Qatar in the Qatar diplomatic crisis

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll, 64% of Turkish citizens hold a negative view of Iran, with only 14% holding a positive view.[1]


Numerous times throughout the millennia-long history shared by the two neighboring nations, parts of the territory of Anatolia were conquered by the various empires based in modern-day Iran, including the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire, the Parthian Empire, the Sassanian Empire, the Safavid Empire, and the Afsharid Empire, amongst others. In ancient times, the Asia Minor formed one of the core regions of the Achaemenid Empire, with most notably the cities of Sardis and Smyrna in western Anatolia. Igdir Province in what is Eastern Anatolia formed in fact part of Qajar Iran up to the outcome of the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828) and the ratified Treaty of Turkmenchay.

Various empires based in what is now Turkey made inroads into what is now Iran, such as by the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.

Iran's second major ethnic group is Azerbaijani which is a Turkic people, there also other Turkic peoples in Iran such as Turkmens and Qashqai people. Turks and Iranians share a common cultural heritage, known as the Turko-Persian tradition, which was a prominent characteristic of the Ghaznavid (977–1186), Seljuk (1037–1194), Sultanate of Rum (1077–1307), Ottoman (1299–1923), Timurid (1370–1507), Kara Koyunlu (1374–1468), Ak Koyunlu (1378–1501), and Safavid (1501–1736) Empires.

20th century[edit]

On 22 April 1926 the First "Treaty of Friendship" between Iran and Turkey was signed in Tehran. The basic principles included friendship, neutrality and nonaggression towards each other. The agreement also included possible joint actions to groups in the territories of both countries which would try to disturb peace and security or who would try to change the government of one of the countries. This policy was indirectly aimed at the internal problems both countries had with their Kurdish minorities.

On 23 January 1932 the first definitive frontier treaty between Turkey and Iran was signed in Tehran. The border between Turkey and Iran is one of the oldest in the world and has stayed more or less the same since the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, and the Treaty of Zuhab. The 1932 treaty thus formalised a centuries-old status quo. On the same day, the countries signed a new Treaty of Friendship, as well as a Treaty of Conciliation, Judicial Settlement and Arbitration.

Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (right) with Reza Pahlavi I, the Shah of Iran (left) in Ankara, 1934.

Between 16 June and 2 July 1934, Reza Shah Pahlavi visited Turkey, together with a mission of high-ranking officials, among which General Hassan Arfa, at the invitation of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Several regions in Turkey were visited and attempts at close friendship and cooperation between the two leaders were made. Reza Shah Pahlavi was reportedly impressed by the republic's modernization reforms and he saw this as an example for his own country.

On 8 July 1937 a Treaty of Non-aggression was signed between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. This treaty would become known as the Treaty of Saadabad. The purpose of this agreement was to ensure security and peace in the Middle East.

In August 1955, the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), a mutual security-pact between Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Britain, was established.

In July 1964 the RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development), aimed at joint economic projects between Iran, Turkey and Pakistan was established.

A period of coldness passed after the 1979 Iranian Revolution which caused major changes in Iran and the Middle Eastern status quo. Today Iran and Turkey closely cooperate in a wide variety of fields that range from fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and promoting stability in Iraq and Central Asia.

Iranian Nuclear Program[edit]

In May 2010, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an unscheduled trip to Tehran in coordination with Brazilian President Lula da Silva to make an agreement to outsource Iranian uranium enrichment to his country to avoid further sanctions on Iran.[2] In supporting Iran after the agreement Erdogan turned the question back on the international community. "In fact, there is no nuclear weapon in Iran now, but Israel, which is also located in our region, possesses nuclear arms. Turkey is the same distance from both of them. What has the international community said against Israel so far? Is this the superiority of law or the law of superiors?"[3]

The decision of Turkey to host a radar system to track missiles launched from Iran has been seen by the Iranians as a serious break in relations.[4]

In a 2012 Pew Research Global Attitudes Survey, 54% of Turks oppose Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, 46% consider a nuclear-armed Iran somewhat a "threat" and 26% support the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.[5] 37% of Turks believe that Iran is not a threat at all, the highest percentage between surveyed countries.[5] Only 34% of Turkey's population approves of "tougher sanctions" on Iran, compared to 52% of Turks disapproving of sanctions.[5]

NATO missile shield crisis[edit]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during a joint press conference in Ankara, 2013.

Turkey, the largest NATO member in the region, hosted the establishment of a NATO missile shield in September 2011. The establishment of NATO defense shield has caused a crisis between Turkey and Iran. Iran claimed that the NATO missile shield is a US plot to protect Israel from any counter-attack should Israel target Iran's nuclear facilities. In addition, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that Turkey should rethink its policies over Syria, the NATO defense shield, and promotion of secularism over the Arab world following the Arab Spring.[6]

Iranian Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi also expressed his opinion over the situation. "The behaviour of Turkish statesmen towards Syria and Iran is wrong and, I believe, they are acting in line with the goals of America," he told to MNA. "If Turkey does not distance itself from this unconventional political behaviour it will have both the Turkish people turning away from it domestically and the neighbouring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran reassessing their political ties." he also added.[6]

Turkey stated that the NATO system neither cause threat to a nation nor target any particular nation.[7][8] Turkish Minister of National Defense, İsmet Yılmaz, insisted that NATO missile defense system's aim is to secure Europe, adding that it's also for security of Turkey.[9]

On October 23, 2011, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran over United States' presence in Turkey. “Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries, both in bases and in training with NATO allies, like Turkey,” Clinton said.[10]

In November 2011, the head of the Iranian Guard's aerospace division threatened to strike Turkey if other countries attacked Iran.[11]

Relations of Turkey and Iran with Israel[edit]

In the past, Turkey's ties with Israel have caused various disagreements between Ankara and Tehran. However, Turkey's neutral stance with regards to the disputes between Israel and Iran has secured the maintenance of friendly bilateral relations. The growing trade between Turkey and Iran indicate the two countries’ willingness to strengthen mutual ties.

Turkey's relations with Israel have deteriorated after the Gaza War (2008–09), the Gaza flotilla raid (2010) and the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. From 2010 to 2016, Turkey had no diplomatic relations with Israel in the ambassadorial level. However, on June 28, 2016, Turkey and Israel signed an agreement to normalize relations, which included a $20 million compensation fund from Israel to Turkish families affected by the Gaza-bound flotilla attack, an eventual return of ambassadors and initial talks of a natural gas pipeline.

Since the Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War[edit]

Iran's relations with Turkey have occasionally soured over the AKP government's active involvement in regional disputes between Shia and Sunni groups since the dawn of the Arab Spring.[12] Iran firmly backs the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad (formed mostly of Alawites, while the AKP government in Turkey (which has its roots in political Islam) supports the Syrian opposition (formed mostly of Sunni Muslims).

Both Turkey and Iran supported the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and the subsequent Mohamed Morsi government, and condemned the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état.[13][14]

During the 2015 military intervention in Yemen, Iran and Turkey supported rival (Shia and Sunni, respectively) groups, which led to official arguments between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mohammad Javad Zarif. Erdoğan stated that "Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw" and Zarif replied "Turkey makes strategic mistakes". However, a few days later, Erdoğan went to Tehran for talks on improving Turkish-Iranian trade relations and was received by Khamenei and Rouhani.[15]

Before the ascent of the Islamist AKP government to power in 2002, Turkey (a constitutionally secular state) had maintained a neutral foreign policy with regards to the religious and sectarian conflicts in the region.

Turkey and Iran's differing geopolitical goals in Syria and Iraq have also led to increased tension and suspicion.[16]

Anti-Iranian views have been propagated by Turkish media like Yeni Akit and Yeni Şafak due to the Iranian role during the Battle of Aleppo (2012–16).[17]

Other matters also aggravate relations, such as their supporting opposing sides in Yemeni Civil War (2015–present), Turkish installation of a NATO radar tracking Iranian activities (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said NATO defense system deployed in southeast Turkey meant to protect Israel from Iranian missile attacks),[18][19]


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, September 2018

Iran was quick to condemn the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, leading to improved relations between the two countries.[20]

From January 2017 onward, Turkey has collaborated closely with Iran and Russia in the Astana talks to resolve the Syrian Civil War.[21]

Turkey's relations with Iran further improved during the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis, where both countries backed Qatar in a dispute with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.[22]

Turkey condemned the 2017–18 Iranian protests, accusing the United States and Israel of interference in internal Iranian affairs.[23][24]

Iran and Turkey also backed one another in their respective disputes with the United States in summer 2018, with Turkey publicly opposing U.S. sanctions on Iran after U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal,[25] and Iran condemning U.S. sanctions on Turkey over the detention of Andrew Brunson.[26] Both Turkey and Iran say they want to put a stop to the conflict even though both countries are supporting opposing sides in the Syrian war according to VOA news. [27]

In February 2019, Turkey refused an invitation by the United States to attend a summit in Warsaw on countering Iranian influence in the Middle East, on the grounds that it "targets one country".[28]


However, the reconciliation suffered a massive setback when Turkey launched a military offensive against the Kurds and Syrian Government. Iran, which is in good term with Turkey since the coup, began to criticize and condemn Turkey for invading Syria and violation of Syrian territorial rights.[29] Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has voiced opposition to the offensive viewing it as a violation of Syria's sovereignty.[30] In addition, Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani cancelled his scheduled trip to Turkey.[31] Iran and Turkey’s lack of trust for each other has hampered them from achieving their various economic and political goals. [32]

According to Ahval news, an analyst wrote that while the two countries are competing for influence in Central Asia, particularly Muslim republics, it is hindering them from becoming real allies.[33]

The relations go decline further after Syrian Army shelled Turkish Army in Idlib, as Syria is backed by Iran and presence of Iranian Army in Northern Syria; and Turkey's perceived tacit approval to the United States to conduct airstrike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.[34][35]

Collaboration against terrorism[edit]

Turkey and Iran vowed to collaborate in their fight against terrorists in Iraq, as thousands of Turkish troops pressed ahead with an air and ground offensive against the militants in northern Iraq. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi claimed that the deaths of Turkish soldiers might have been avoided if the United States had informed Turkey that the terrorists were infiltrating into Turkey with heavy weaponry. The U.S. shares intelligence from surveillance drones with Turkey about movement of the PKK along the border.

The Turkish government shut down a probe that revealed connections between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the highest levels of the Turkish government.[36]

According to NBC news, a member of the Turkish parliament said that the uprising that erupted in Syria in 2011, led Turkey to agree that they need Iran and Russia in order to stop a Kurdish state from forming on its southern border. [37]

Trade relations[edit]

Turkey and Iran are members of the Economic Cooperation Organization

Iran and Turkey also have very close trade and economic relations. Both countries are part of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

Bilateral trade between the nations is increasing. In 2005, the trade increased to $4 billion from $1 billion in 2000.[38] Iran’s gas export to Turkey is likely to be increased. At present, the rate is at 50mm cm/d.[39] Turkey imports about 10 billion cubic meters a year of gas from Iran, about 30 percent of its needs.[40] Turkey plans to invest $12 billion in developing phases 22, 23 and 24 of South Pars gas field, a senior Iranian oil official told[39] Two-way trade is now in the range of $10 billion (2010), and both governments have announced that the figure should reach the $20 billion mark in the not too distant future.[41][42] 50 percent of the gas from three phases of Iran’s South Pars gas field will be re-exported to Europe.[43] Turkey has won the tender for privatization of Razi Petrochemical Complex valued at $650 million (2008).

Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi announced in October 2012 that the speed of trade exchanges between Iran and Turkey has accelerated and was close of reaching the goal of 30 billion dollars per year. He added that the growing trade relations between Tehran and Ankara indicate the two countries’ willingness to strengthen mutual ties.[citation needed] On April 29 2019, Turkey and Iran highlighted their intentions of increasing cooperation in the aspect of transportation according to Hurriyet daily news. [44]

Turkey stops buying Iranian oil completely in 2019 to comply with US sanctions.


Iran and Turkey have extensive tourism relations for years. Turkey receives 2 million Iranian tourists each year[45][circular reference] and economically benefits from Iranian tourism.[46] As of 2013, tourists from Turkey comprise one of the largest that visit Iran, comprising 391,283 registered tourists.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Global Indicators Database. Pew Research Center. Accessed March 12, 2019.
  2. ^ News Al Jazeera 17 May 2010
  3. ^ News Archived 2010-05-21 at the Wayback Machine PressTV
  4. ^ Jones, Dorian. "Turkey And Iran: The End Of The Affair." Radio Free Europe 19 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b c A Global “No” To a Nuclear-Armed Iran Pew Research Center
  6. ^ a b Iran tells Turkey to change tack or face trouble Hurriyet, 9 October 2011
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Turkey to site Nato missile shield radar in its south-east". The Guardian. London. 14 September 2011.
  9. ^ Turkish defense minister: NATO missile defense system's aim is to secure Europe Archived 2011-10-16 at the Wayback Machine Cumhuriyet
  10. ^ Clinton warns Iran over US presence in Turkey Hurriyet Daily News 24 October 2011
  11. ^ "Iran to hit Turkey if nuclear program targeted by Israel, U.S., general says." The Associated Press, 26 November 2011.
  12. ^ LaFranchi, Howard. "Why Iran got huffy about a certain locale for next nuclear talks." The Christian Science Monitor. 6 April 2012.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Erdoğan focuses on trade during Iran visit Al-Monitor
  16. ^ "Iran and Syria concerned about Turkish intervention in Jarablus". Rudaw Media. Rudaw Media. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  17. ^ Idiz, Semih (December 20, 2016). "Animosity toward Iran reaches fever pitch in Turkey after Aleppo". Al-Monitor.
  18. ^,7340,L-4131330,00.html
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Erdogan Defies Trump Over Iran Sanctions".
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Iran opposes military action in Syria, Zarif tells Turkey".
  31. ^ "Turkey-Syria border: All the latest updates".
  32. ^ "Co-opetition in Turkey-Iran relations".
  33. ^ "Ankara-Tehran relations faced with many obstacles - analyst".
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Gov't-led probe covers up Iranians in terror investigation". TODAY'S ZAMAN. 22 September 2014. Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  37. ^ "U.S. ally Turkey looks to Russia and Iran to protect its interests".
  38. ^ Schleifer, Yigal (February 2, 2006). "Caught in the fray: Turkey enters debate on Iran's nuclear program". CS Monitor.
  39. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2016-02-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  40. ^ Retrieved 2009-06-27. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  41. ^ National[permanent dead link] Iran Daily
  42. ^
  43. ^ Economy Archived 2009-06-09 at the Wayback Machine Iran Daily
  44. ^ "Turkey, Iran to pursue cooperation, enhance relations".
  45. ^ Iran–Turkey relations#Tourism
  46. ^ "Turkey, Iran ready to bolster tourism". Turkish daily news. June 19, 2006. Archived from the original (– Scholar search) on September 30, 2007.
  47. ^ "Nearly One Million Azerbaijani Tourists visit Iran annually" - Retrieved 19 November 2015

External links[edit]